Thomas Hodgson - Departmental Lecturer in Music, University of Oxford
The sociology of memory often situates the idea of “collective memory” (Halbwachs 1992) within more-or-less clearly defined cultural worlds. Yet this framing becomes much messier when seen through the lens of migration. In practice, migrants understand their experience of living in multicultural societies in ways that cut across historical as well as cultural spheres. In this paper, I explore the performance and patronage of the Saif ul-Malook, a collection of poetry written by the nineteenth-century Sufi, Mian Muhammad Bakhsh. Often described by Kashmiris as the ‘Rumi of Kashmir’, I situate its story in relation to the movement of people and culture between Pakistan and Britain, particularly since World War II; movements marked by shifting flows of money, power and control. Drawing on fieldwork conducted between 2009 – 2018 among musicians at the poet’s shrine in Khari Sharif, Azad Kashmir, and in various performance contexts in Bradford, England, I consider how the story of the Saif-ul-Malook – and its performance – relates to Kashmiris’ understanding of migration, across multiple generations. These everyday performances of the Saif ul-Malook produce memories that cut across generational and cultural spheres, revealing how the “lived past experiences” (Schwartz 1996; Zerubavel 1996) of first-generation migrants come to inform the world-view of those born within a destination country. At a moment in which populist anxieties about a “migrant crisis” are increasingly shaping political decisions, understanding how these collective memories of migration are produced is, arguably, more important now than ever.
Tom is an ethnomusicologist who studies algorithms and AI in the global south. He is currently writing a book – Journeys of Love: Kashmiris, Music, and the Poetics of Migration – which explores questions of value and exchange among musicians in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and the Kashmiri diaspora.